Throughout Lent, Christians reflect on the sacrifices of Christ and repent for their sins. Lent is the observance of the time before Jesus’ crucifixion, the 40 days and 40 nights He spent in the desert. When Jesus returned to Jerusalem from the desert, word started to spread of His glorious homecoming. Before entering the city, Jesus met with His faithful disciples outside of town in a small village. Jesus tells His disciples that they will find an ass tied to the post and to bring it to Him. Our Savior Jesus Christ then rode into Jerusalem on the back of a lowly donkey, sending a message to the people of what kind of king He was. As He entered the city, people spread palms on the ground for Him to pass over. The day of Jesus’ triumphant return is now known as Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday is the last Sunday of Lent and marks the start of the Holy Week. Christians around the world observe Palm Sunday and Holy Week with much regard, as it is the beginning of Christ’s journey to crucifixion. Many gather in Jerusalem to celebrate this holy day and honor Jesus’ jubilant arrival back into the city. Christians meet from near and far to proclaim their faith and participate in a procession waving palms and singing “Hosanna.” It is written in Mark 11:10 that as Jesus entered Jerusalem the crowds shouted, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” The people were recognizing Jesus as their Messiah through these words and welcoming Him with open arms as their king.
While Christians around the world rejoice on Palm Sunday, the Holy Land celebration holds special meaning as the faithful walk along the same path Jesus rode the donkey. The celebration in Jerusalem has been a tradition for centuries, and although temporarily banned from practice has been consistently celebrated for the last 86 years. By participating in this procession of palms, Christians from around the world are reaffirming their beliefs and declaring their support of God’s mission – to bring His universal love to the world.
The faithful who gather in Jerusalem, start the procession of palms with a mass in the Basilica at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Local clergy from different communities in the Holy Land bless the palms as they preside over the service. Attendees walk around the Edicule, the holy site of resurrection, and then start the journey to Bethpage on the Mount of Olives. This is where Jesus mounted the donkey he triumphantly rode back into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The pilgrims parade waving palms in hand, singing hymns, and offering up prayers, on their way back into the city. Walking the same path Jesus took on His return to Jerusalem. The pilgrims walk to the Old City until they reach St. Anne’s Church where they receive a formal blessing.
Stepping where He stepped, the procession of palms nourishes the connection between God and His faithful servants. You too have the opportunity to walk with Jesus and renew your journey with God. Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land offers yearly pilgrimages of faith, led by FFHL president Father Peter Vasko, OFM. Pilgrims walk along the same paths as Christ and visit many holy sites like the Mount of Olives, the Sea of Galilee, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. To learn more about available pilgrimages or to reserve your spot today, click here.